Just Say What’s On Your Mind by E.M. Hillwood is a self-published erotica novella. Don’t let that put you off. It’s as well written, maybe even more so, than some novels I’ve read, and the editing is quality too.
Mike and Angie are a married couple with three kids. Still crazy about each other, they find that their sex life as gotten a little stale. Then on a gals night out, Angie meets a man named Bennett who challenges her to talk honestly about sex. She’s intrigued and turned on by him, a confession that she shares with Mike.
Later, Mike and Angie go to Bennett’s home where they continue to talk frankly about sex. That talk leads to the bedroom, where Mike watches Bennett fuck Angie. Mike is turned on by the scene. He and Angie continue to explore this new side of their sex life with the help of Bennett. Since there’s no story without conflict, and all involved are okay with the situation, an old girlfriend of Mike’s shows up to play the heavy. Her scheming brings out jealousies. But with the help of Bennett, Mike and Angie work through the problem and set up a little revenge scheme against the old girlfriend.
On the downside: The sex scenes in Just Say What’s on Your Mind are fairly hot, despite their repetitive nature. If you think a cervix is sexy then the constant use of clinical terms might not bother you. Several snide asides about women just using sex to trick men into marriage and a white picket fence life, and the stereotypical eroticization of a man of color were unfortunate, as was the constant assertion that Mike wasn’t gay. (No one should EVER have to apologize for being gay, and if you’re straight, well then, that’s all right too.) None of the characters seemed to believe in an unexamined life and spent far too much time self-analyzing.
On the upside: This is a nice portrayal of a loving couple exploring their sexual fantasies together. Despite a bit too much talking, it was good to see them checking with each other through every step that they were both okay with what was happening – until the one time they didn’t as a dramatic device, which made no sense. All of the main characters were distinctive and well-rounded. While the story had no real climax or resolution, it leaves you with a feeling that this couple will continue to explore their fantasies happily together.If you’re into hot wife or cuckholding fantasies, then this book is probably perfect for you. The quality of writing is good. However, the mentality of the characters seems stuck in the 1970s when it comes it women, black men, and homosexuality. For that reason, I can’t rate this higher than sideways.
Much has been made of the fact that hetero males are captivated by lesbian images and behavior. You bet. I would add that I am particularly captivated when it comes to a collection of stories like Night’s Kiss by Catherine Lundoff. No one could fail to be charmed by at least half of these stories, which are rich with authentic flirtatiousness. In other cases, you may find yourself not only fascinated as well as disgusted – in the most pleasurably disgusting sorts of ways – by some of the gamier ones.
On the other hand, when her characters want to be charming they are positively and genuinely cute. As any girl will tell you, genuine cute is not easy to do, nor does it undermine strength of character. The total package in this little book is a series of often strange and unusual settings replete with the most convincing and appetizing sex.
In fact it would be reasonable to assume that there won’t be a dry pair of panties, drawers, or thongs on anyone in the house where this book is read, regardless of the gender of the readers. There is truly someone or someTHING for everyone -- in this regrettably slim volume -- from hot vamps to vampires and even an entity that may have beamed down from hitherto undiscovered parts of the solar system. There is even a zaftig pirate-lady complete with bad breath, who engages in pratfalls while subduing her wayward lover. Well, don’t all pirates have bad breath?
Ms. Lundoff has two important gifts that make her work exceptional. The first is that she builds a real sense of environmental atmosphere whether she writes about the streets of Florence, the weather in Paris, the surreal tackiness of Vegas, or some sewage-strewn alley in 19th century London. The smells, tastes, and sights of the world shape her characters’ responses to their environment so that we experience them too. That draws us into the romantic/erotic/sexual event whether it proves to be arousing, appalling or, as is often the case here, both.
When she tackles Jack the Ripper in “An Incident in Whitechapel” the dripping foulness of London at the time is captured wonderfully as a source and a surrounding to the bloody doings. In such a context, the lesbian flogging that takes place seems to fit right in to the slimy slum-hideousness of the whole. It’s very sexy if you like that sort of thing.
And the thing you like most about Ms. Lundoff’s work is that it is not half-hearted sex. It is not manipulative sex. It is not politically correct sex. The description is neither gauzy not mechanistic, but organic to the fictive world she creates. Perhaps the best (?) of these is a little number she calls “Phone, Sex, Chocolate” in which the narrator is obsessed with inserting bits of chocolate in her orifices (all of them, mind you) as she engages in the grossest sort of fantasy phone sex with her reluctant lady lover. Even at it’s most off putting, the result is a highly authentic release. Unconscious obsession becomes the hot, fluid stink of sex. Getting off for the narrator is like a suppurating wound expelling pus.
Secondly, Ms. Lundoff has a real sensibility to the sensual landscape of the female body and the way in which it arouses both sexes, which I think it does. The female body is the object of desire, just as it is the focus of the erotic gaze and in story after story here we are invited to travel over that smooth, tactile terrain in the most exacting detail through the hungry eyes of the narrators. Generally they are the pursuer rather than the pursued, the punisher rather than the punished, but not always. In any case they are alive to the sensuality of the female aura even if it comes to them in the last moment of their lives.I don’t see how anyone could fail to have a good time with Night’s Kiss, though it could do with a few more spankings. Yes, a few more sound spankings would be nice…and described at greater length. Mmmmmm…. Thumbs up and as far as they can go, too.
For generations, sado-masochism has been characterized as a disorder of the psyche. Those who subscribe to this position view the sexualized desire to inflict or suffer pain as abnormal and unhealthy. Usually, they claim that this desire can be traced to traumatic events in the deviant individual’s past that caused discipline or punishment (as either giver or receiver) to become linked with sexual excitement. No one could possibly want to participate in such bizarre sexual rituals, they reason, without some childhood experience that warped their sexuality into perverse forms.
Nonsense. That has always been my reaction. I’ve found intense pleasure, joy and fulfillment in a BDSM relationship, yet I had the most normal, supportive, loving childhood anyone could ask for. It’s true that I was drawn to submissive scenarios at a very young age. Many practitioners of BDSM will say the same. But I don’t think anyone will find the key to this early attraction in my real world history.
After reading Melanie Abram’s novel Playing, however, I do find myself wondering whether this perspective of kink as pathology might in fact be true for some people. Certainly, Ms Abrams paints a convincing portrait of a woman tortured by her past, seeking momentary release in the punishments inflicted by her dominant lover.
Josie is a smart, attractive young woman, just starting her graduate work in anthropology. She takes a job as live-in nanny to a borderline autistic boy, supposedly to eke out her stipend, but actually because she feels drawn to the boy and his beautiful, vivacious mother. Mary reminds Josie of her own mother, with whom Josie has an extremely conflicted relationship – but Mary seems to accept and approve of Josie in a way that her own mother never could.
Josie’s and Mary’s relationship is strained to near breaking when Devesh, a charismatic Indian surgeon whom Mary wants for herself, chooses Josie instead. It turns out that Devesh is sexually dominant. As he and Josie “play”, he fulfills fantasies that have haunted her ever since the death of her infant brother. For Josie, their scenes of discipline and desire are cathartic and overwhelming. Little by little they break down the walls of self-deception she has built to protect herself from the awful truths of her childhood.
Josie is an extreme and yet believable character. Though she is in her late twenties, she is in some sense a victim of arrested development. She sulks and throws tantrums. She is petulant and deliberately disobedient. Though she has an adult’s sense of responsibility, she acts like a child.
Devesh loves her, and thinks that he understands her, but he can’t see the dark secrets that swirl inside her, the nightmares that will release her. As he comes closer to knowing the truth, Josie pushes him away. He begs her to join him on his visit to India, but she refuses. Finally, disappointed and hurt, he travels by himself, leaving Josie to face her demons alone.
If erotica is defined as writing intended to arouse, I’m not sure that Playing qualifies for this label. The scenes where Devesh and Josie “play” constitute a relatively small portion of the novel, though they are sufficiently intense that their influence lingers:
The unfairness of it pricked her, and she tried to turn her back to him, but he held her still. He ran his fingers through her hair and held tightly. “Now,” he whispered. “I’m going to give you five more, and you’re to count each of them, nice and loud. Do you understand?”
It was unfair, but she felt her head expand, her body yield, and she nodded.
“Good.” He stepped away and brought the crop down, a hot fiery snap.
“One,” she said.
Quickly, he did it again, and she cried. “Two.” It was electric, and she could feel the welts rise, the heat emanating from the crop to her flesh to her very center. “Three.” The top of her head seemed to open up, and with the next molten snap of the crop, she felt sucked into the ether. It was a familiar feeling, this going outside herself, but this time, her consciousness disintegrated, leaving her body below and counting. “Four.” Just bones and flesh planted firmly. “Five,” and then he was telling her to beg to be fucked, and she was begging, over and over until he was cupping one of her breasts in his hand, and then pushing inside her, his mouth tight on her ear, telling her all the nasty things she’d only thought to herself for years and years and years, and her head was pushing into cold iron, full of nothing but space and air, her insides alive and present, her outsides his completely.
As illustrated by this passage, the novel is far less explicit than most work characterized as erotica. At the same time, this book primarily is about sex, about the intricate relationships between sexuality and all the other emotions in our lives. The core conflict revolves around Josie’s guilt, which has become eroticized and now can be expiated only through punishment at her lover’s hand.
Playing succeeded in making me wonder, briefly, whether there is in fact some key childhood experience that accounts for my kinkiness, something that I’ve blocked from my memory but which continues to affect me. And yet the novel concludes by suggesting that D/s fantasies can be as much a cure as a symptom, if they’re played out in the context of a loving relationship.
Devesh readily admits to having had dominant desires for as long as he could remember. Still, he denies that this is pathological. For him, BDSM is simply a path to intimacy and pleasure. Josie, on the other hand, needs to confront the reality of her past, stripping away the sexual charge that has accumulated around her deeds and those of her family. Once she does this, she discovers that playing with Devesh, surrendering her self to him, becomes a process of healing.Playing is an intelligent and reasonably well-crafted inquiry into the dynamics of sexual “deviance”. Although it is not one-handed reading, it satisfies on other levels.
I’m essentially a nice guy, no matter what the rumourmongers might say. As a consequence of my amiable character, it would seem inevitable that I was going to say good things about Ultimate Burlesque. However, Ultimate Burlesque deserves to have good things written about it because it really is an outstanding anthology.
This collection of 30 short stories comes from Accent Press’s imprint, Xcite Books, with profits benefiting the cancer charities associated with Burlesque Against Breast Cancer, and a minimum 15% of the cover price going to the UK organisation: Macmillan Cancer Support.
I won’t go into the details of what Macmillan Cancer Support do. I think it’s sufficient for the sake of this review to say that they are a charity who perform a tremendous job to alleviate suffering. I certainly won’t go into the details of the devastating disease that is cancer. I suspect that, sadly, most of us will know someone who has suffered because of this horrible, horrible illness. Rather than concentrate on the grim stuff, what I want to do here, instead, is concentrate on the great anthology that is Ultimate Burlesque.
A quick glance at the table of contents reveals some of the top names in contemporary erotic fiction. Alison Tyler, Elizabeth Black, Marcelle Perks, Portia Da Costa, Jeremy Edwards, Nikki Magennis, Donna George Storey, Maxim Jakubowski, Kristina Lloyd and Emily Dubberley. There are other enormously talented writers contained within Ultimate Burlesque – more successful journalists and acclaimed novelists than I have space to mention here – but the good news is that you can see the full table of contents when you go out and buy the book.
Above anything else, Ultimate Burlesque is a celebration of life – and those saucy interludes that make all our lives fulfilling and satisfying. From Jo Rees’s “Inner Diva,” a beautifully crafted story of backstage breast obsession, Ultimate Burlesque reveals itself as cheeky as it is charitable. In MonMouth’s stirring story, “Watching,” the anthology goes away from a fem/fem obsession and playfully introduces a couple and their special friend. Alyson Tyler, “Like Those Girls,” shows us how deliciously demanding it can be to work in a B&B.
Like all good anthologies, Ultimate Burlesque has that special quality where the reader can dip in and out, consistently finding one tantalising gem after another. Jeremy Edwards introduces us to “Laura the Laugher” – an antagonist with a remarkably appealing burlesque act that has the audiences rolling in the aisles. Portia Da Costa entertains with characteristic joie de vivre when she presents us with a “Private Dancer.” Kristina Lloyd brings stylish and sexy wit to “The Lion Tamer’s Scars.”
There are an abundance of stories about burlesque in this collection: if you hadn’t guessed that was a possibility from the title then you’re probably best not trusted with things that have sharp edges – like books. Nikki Magennis’s, “Catch Me If You Can,” takes us backstage with a raunchy stripper and a very enthusiastic fan. Mark Farley skilfully transports us to a house of ill repute in San Francisco, 1862 with “The Intimate Diary of Martha Rae.” And the inimitable Donna George Storey gives us access to a powerful, private performance in “All Eyes Upon Her.”
This is a fun, frisky and fantastic collection of shorts that showcases a host of talented writers all writing sex-positive and upbeat tales that are rousing, raunchy and risqué. Readers who are interested in finding out more about Burlesque Against Breast Cancer should visit Burlesque Against Breast Cancer.I’m aware that finances are tight for us all at the moment, but Ultimate Burlesque comes with the added incentive of doing something that benefits a good cause. Even more enticing is the fact that this book is worth every penny.
This annual anthology of lesbian erotica was clearly inspired by the success of Cleis Press' Best Lesbian Erotica series, a groundbreaking concept when it was launched in 1995. By now, there are clichés in female/female erotica as there are in male/female and male/male erotica. Some of the standard scenarios can still be approached in fresh ways, but not all writers have the skill and imagination to do this.
The strength of this volume seems to be the variety of stories in it. They range from familiar tales of horny college classmates, exhibitionists in front of picture windows on high floors and seductions involving sexy lingerie to glimpses of woman-love in non-European cultures. Some of these stories could be defined as down-and-dirty sex fantasies, which have a loyal following. Other stories in this book feature psychological insights and literary style, and they would look appropriate in cream-of-the-year annual anthologies such as Best American Erotica, formerly edited by Susie Bright, or Maxim Jakubowski's Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica. It seems unlikely that any one reader would like all these stories equally.
Several of these stories focus on the sexual initiation of a novice, a woman with no sexual experience with other women and no ideas about what to do. Some of these stories are more convincing and effective than others. In "A Different Kind of House Call" by Madlyn March, the narrator stubbornly refuses to please her girlfriend by giving or receiving oral sex, thinking it is too messy and too intimate. The girlfriend hires a female porn star, "Anita Fok" (star of a film series, “Horny Hospital”) for an educational threesome, although a less patient girlfriend would probably have found what she needed behind the narrator's back. This is what the narrator assumes when she walks in to find Anita and her girlfriend naked in bed. In “Les Triumphantes” by Lara Zielinsky, which takes place on a ship by that name, a high school teacher who wants to “come out” feels awkward and out of place on an all-woman cruise until the perfect stranger introduces herself and gently leads her to ecstasy.
The treatment of lesbian sex as an arcane ritual known only to adepts and their chosen students is entertaining but not strictly realistic. Young women who have never known other lesbians have figured things out together, both in real life and in fiction. It’s not rocket science.
The suggestion that lesbian sex is a sacred mystery is carried to its logical conclusion in two stories with an explicitly spiritual theme: “Holy Fuck” by Geneva King, a series of scenarios about sex between women in various religious contexts, and “The Day the Sun Goddess Got Laid” by Donna George Storey, a marvelous teaching story about the Japanese sun goddess, Amaterasu, and her search for an explanation of erotic laughter.
The sacred and the sensual are combined in a rare art-form, banned by Christian missionaries for a hundred years and now revived, which is beautifully described in “Traditional Inuit Throat Singing” by Giselle Renarde. In this story, an Inuit woman from Canada’s far north introduces her lover, the child of Russian immigrants, to her relatives who are temporarily in a “southern” city to perform for a crowd, and then teaches her how to sing or chant a duet. It’s all about sharing vibes.
Most of these stories are realistic, including two similarly-named but distinctly different epistolary pieces, “Love Letter” by Miel Rose and “P.S. I Love You” by Kissa Starling. The first of these is an intense, poignant letter to an ex-lover with whom the writer has lost touch, but who haunts her dreams and her waking thoughts.
The story by Kissa Starling is a sweet historical tale about two young women who hook up at Woodstock in August 1969, in an atmosphere of universal love. Many years later, one of them has a reason to reminisce about the good old days. The Woodstock scenes are groovy, and they include references to the actual bands that played there as well as the farmer who let thousands of people converge on his land for the event. However, the author has missed a chance to trace the development of a long-term lesbian relationship which would have been influenced by the sweeping changes in American culture since 1969, including the birth and development of both “women’s lib” and “gay rights.”
One story that acknowledges the influence of earlier lesbian literature is “BLR” by K. Sontz. Living in the 21st century, the two lovers who have “come out” in college face a familiar dilemma: their parents are upset to different degrees, and the lovers must meet in secret. The narrator’s girlfriend discovers that she has been reading Beebo Brinker, a lesbian novel of 1962 about going to Greenwich Village to meet beatniks and other queers. Both lovers agree that the lack of sex in lesbian fiction of that time is disappointing, but their instincts serve them well.
The only paranormal story besides Donna George Storey’s invented myth is “Rackula,” an overwrought vampire tale by Heather Towne. If this is a parody of horror fiction that takes itself too seriously, something like “The Rocky Horror Show,” this story sets the right tone. It begins thus:
“Upon my eighteenth birthday, when I became a woman in the jaundiced eyes of Romanian law, my mother sat me down in the musty living room of our ancient cottage and told me the story of the Countess Sabrina Comaneci—the evil, vengeful, undead, large-breasted seductress who haunted the backwoods byways of our impoverished province, deflowering virgins with her serpentlike tongue and jagged fangs, and the hungrily supping on blood from the rents she’d made in the young women’s maidenheads.”
From there it gets better, or worse.
Two memorable stories focus on clothing. “The Perfect Fit” by Stephanie Rose is an unconvincing but charming fantasy about a woman who has worked hard for a year to become fit, after sinking into depression and overeating after the death of her father. Her reward for herself is a private appointment with Miss Lila, glamorous owner of a lingerie shop who offers very personal fittings.
“Tight Sweater” by Jacqueline Applebee is a kind of quirky joke about a blonde Englishwoman who manages to encase herself in a sweater which is almost too tight to allow breathing. When she can’t remove it herself, she is forced to beg her attractive Nigerian neighbour for help, even though it is against her policy to get too close to anyone living in the same apartment building, since a falling-out would make the inevitable hallway encounters uncomfortable. As it turns out, the tight sweater makes an effective bondage device, and the Nigerian, who has been hurt by her neighbor’s apparent indifference, is able to satisfy them both.
“Something I Gave Her” by Sandra Roth is a threesome story in which the butch narrator fulfills her femme girlfriend’s fantasy by encouraging her to drink until she passes out, and then offering her to her closest friend. Chris, the friend, is understandably reluctant to grope a sleeping woman, and requires a lot of persuasion to join in the fun.
Chris eventually expresses an interest in ass-fucking, and the narrator tells the reader: “if you think I’m going to let someone else be the first to ream my girlfriend’s ass, you’re smoking some deadly weed.” Here is where the consensuality wears thin. The narrator is packing a larger “cock” than the one she has loaned to Chris, and she decides not to lubricate it because she lacks the patience to dig the lube out of her backpack “at the other end of the bed.”
The narrator explains calmly: “I swear I can feel Tara’s asshole tear, as the head of my rod rams through her tight sphincter.” Although Tara keeps her eyes closed, she screams. The narrator is turned on by the sound.
Admittedly, this story is a fantasy about a fantasy, but the narrator lost much of her appeal for me at that point. There is no indication that Tara ever wanted physical damage, and even if she had, a responsible lover would not ignore her welfare in a state of reckless lust. Feh.
“The Evolution of Party Girl” by Charlotte Dare is about two apparently mismatched young women from different sides of the tracks who must overcome their preconceptions and develop the maturity to appreciate each other. This is not an original theme, but the author handles it well.
“Earthy” by Anna Watson would appeal to anyone with a smell fetish and/or an interest in voyeurism. “Room 545” by Geneva Nixon and “Room with a View” by Kimberley LaFontaine are both hotel-room fantasies, one starring established lovers and one describing a hot scene between a chambermaid and a guest. “Beach Moth” is a fantasy about being cast away on an island with the woman of one’s dreams.
“Thursday Nights in Soho” is a thought-provoking story about a career woman who goes regularly to a lesbian watering-hole with her best friend to pick up chicks. As the narrator admits, her desire for sex without commitment causes her to behave like a boorish man. The narrator and her buddy meet their match when two stunning women enter the club, looking for paying customers.
This book contains enough treasures to be worth its price, but the plots, the styles, and the characters vary widely. Perhaps we are living in a Golden Age of lesbian erotica, when one-handed reading and literary fiction can still keep company.